Each year, it has become a tradition to visit Las Vegas the weekend before Christmas. Check out our top picks from the last trip. There really isn’t a better time to visit — the hotel rates plummet, the weather isn’t unbearably hot and there are a lot less visitors in general. Plus, we love the very Vegas-style holiday decorations.
For the longest time, Kevin and I absolutely hated Las Vegas. We don’t gamble, hate cigarette smoke, refuse to stand in long lines and can’t stand buffets. Plus, there is that whole rowdy bachelorette/bachelor party side (cue the screeching voices, “What happens in Vegas…”). But we soon discovered the trick — stay at a top-end hotel, see a highly-rated show and do the most unconventionally Vegas things possible (like hiking, going to a museum and eating off-strip at the places Vegas’ top chefs go to).
Below is our latest itinerary for a long weekend in Las Vegas. It strikes a nice balance of busy and relaxation. If you have a few more days, you can add on our recommendations from last year. And soon enough you’ll be wondering, too — when did you start enjoying Vegas?
Day 1 – FRIDAY NIGHT
- Arrival in Las Vegas
- 9 PM, Drive 10 minutes West of the Vegas Strip to grab dinner at Raku
- This Japanese hole-in-the-wall is the exact opposite of the typical big, brash Vegas eateries. It’s more for a quiet and romantic night out.
- Raku is known for its small plates. We didn’t love everything, but the one dish that stood out most (oddly as it sounds) was the Oyaji tofu — served cold with a side of chili garlic sauce and Japanese mustard greens.
- We honestly had our doubts on the tofu (eh, hem… Kevin for sure!). But after a few bites, we were ready to order another one!
- Getting a reservation at Raku takes effort/advanced planning. The bar area allows for a few drop-in’s, but last year we struck out (since the wait list was over 2 hours). This year, I made reservations 3 weeks in advance (by telephone only). Call them directly (in my case, 5 times until someone picked up!). Reservation line: (702) 367-3511
HOTEL PICK – COSMOPOLITAN HOTEL
- The Cosmopolitan Hotel has just upgraded its rooms with a $100 million dollar renovation project. You can literally still smell the new carpet.
- 11 PM, check into your hotel room. Rates vary widely (always call to see if there is a deal). Expect to pay around $200 USD a night for a Terrace one bedroom (not including the resort fee or parking).
- Always ask to waive the resort fee (doesn’t hurt to ask!)
- Don’t be shy about inquiring about a complimentary room upgrade. We were upgraded to a gorgeous room with a view directly over the Vegas strip.
- Cosmopolitan is definitely geared more for the young, party scene crowd. We even felt a little old!
- 11:30 PM, Grab a nightcap at the Cosmopolitan’s Chandelier Lounge
- Why the Chandelier Lounge? Specifically I wanted to try a drink that isn’t on the menu called the “Verbena,” topped with a Szechuan button, an edible flower that speeds up your salivary glands (and numbs your mouth).
- Review of the verbena cocktail? It was worth trying, but would never order again! Let’s just say, once my mouth started to get the feeling back, I switched to wine!
Day 2 – SATURDAY
Today is a long day — with an early morning work out mixed with spa relaxation and entertainment all on the strip.
- 8 AM, For the fitness crazed people like us – take a Sweat 60 class at the Cosmopolitan hotel gym ($15). This is 1-hour high-intensity interval training class involving boxing, plyometrics, strength training and core stability exercises. Prepare to sweat and burn as many as 600-800 calories.
- Sweat 60 is circuit training with about 12 different workout stations where you’ll do kettle drum lifts, box jumps and agility training. You can push yourself or scale it back (depending on your cocktail intake the night before!)
- 9-10 AM, You earned your breakfast. Go straight to Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan and order some breakfast. The line is massive, but moved quickly. We waited about 20 minutes (but worth it).
- 11 AM – 1 PM, Free Las Vegas walking tour – Meeting Location: sidewalk in front of The Mirage Volcano
- The 2-hour tour is one of our favorite things we’ve done in Las Vegas yet. The company owner (named “Es”) will share his lifelong knowledge about the history of Las Vegas, how the mafia influenced the city, information about some of Las Vegas’ biggest attractions and buildings, and provide you with insider tips to enjoying your time in Las Vegas.
- The tour stops at many of the cities biggest attractions such as the Bellagio Fountains, CityCenter, Caesars Palace and some of the lesser known spots. I thought I knew just about everything, but Es showed us a secret hotel — for the super wealthy and famous — right on the strip. Who knew? This tour ends on the corner sidewalk near MGM Grand.
- 2:00-4:00 PM, Shop and relax at a cafe on the LINQ. We love the comfortable lounging chairs at the Starbucks here.
- 4:00-6:30 PM, Unwind at Qua Spa at Caesar’s Palace, a sprawling, 50,000-square-foot facility with separate facilities for men and women. Entry to the spa is $65.
- 7-8:30 PM, Dinner at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. This is a modern supper club with live music and entertainment acts that was inspired by social clubs of the past. Save room for desert and get the bananas foster where they flambe your desert tableside!
- 9:30 PM, After dinner walk to Mat Franco Magic Reinvented (30 minutes away by foot). Season 9 winner of “America’s Got Talent” Mat Franco takes the stage at the LINQ Hotel & Casino with his own twist on magic along with improv and humor.
- 11 PM, Wrap your night either back at the Chandelier Bar or my favorite Vegas spot with a view at the Mandarin Bar.
Day 3 – SUNDAY
- 8-9 AM, Stroll the Vegas strip – this is one of my favorite times to walk the strip. Most of the stores will be closed, but there are virtually no lines at the top breakfast spots or cafes. Or you can be like Kevin, and lounge in the room and enjoy the Japanese soaking tub.
- 8-11 AM, Relax in Room
- 12-3:30 PM, Hike Springs Preserve/Visit Nevada State Museum. After a pretty chilled morning, we were ready to get out and explore. Located just North of the Vegas Strip, this place is a massive complex that covers the history of Nevada along with a section on native animals (including a live fox), special exhibits and a network of easy hiking trails.
- 4-5:30 PM, Look for vintage goods in the Arts District. The area is a wreck right now with construction (i.e. no sidewalks!), but hopefully the place will be renovated in the near future.
- Known as “18b,” the Las Vegas Arts District is located immediately south of downtown Las Vegas in an area bounded by Commerce Street, Hoover Avenue, Fourth Street and Las Vegas Boulevard (at Charleston) and Colorado Avenue. The name, “18b,” represents the original Arts District area, which consisted of 18 blocks.
- This is the place to check out if you’re into vintage clothes and goods. We visited about 8 different shops before purchasing a gorgeous 1920’s-era typewriter. I love it!
- 6 PM, Dinner at Capo’s Italian Speakeasy. You don’t want to miss this spot, located about a 15 minute drive west of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s a throwback to Las Vegas’ mobster era. Without giving too much away, make sure you have reservations and come prepared with the secret password. Though, even with the password they’ll give you an earful at the door (though, all with a good amount of fun!).
- 8 PM, Head back to LA. That’s it – viva Las Vegas! Until next time…